The Effect of Proper Diet Upon Teeth

Care for Tooth Tissue or Lose it Forever!

This Warning Implies a Diet That Will Constantly Contribute Health to Mouth Structure

Says Maude A. Perry in

“THE EFFECT OF PROPER DIET UPON TEETH”

 

                Nature has endowed human beings with some tissues which once destroyed are not renewable or regenerative. Hair and nails may be lost and in most instances more will grow. Teeth are provided in two sets, no more. Injured skin or flesh heals and in many instances does not leave a scar but when a tooth is injured by accident or disease only prompt remedial measures will save the tooth. If the tooth is lost there is nothing to take its place except artificial substitutes.

With this knowledge so generally taught, published, and even broadcast one is at a loss to understand the apathy of so large a part of the general public in its response to this problem. Perhaps we have been too scientific and in the revulsion of feeling which many people have developed against fads and cults centering on foods, they have not been able to discriminate between the true and the false. So they proceed along the seemingly neutral course of inaction and indifference, which is more harmful than real ignorance sometimes.

It is true that a great difference of opinion exists today as to the cause of dental caries but there is no doubt that the diet in normal health as well as in disease plays an important role, both in the prevention of dental caries and in control of its progress when once present.

Research work upon this problem has been occupying the time of scientists for many years. They feel that the environment of the tooth, the general health, and the diet of the individual (particularly children and adolescents), are all hindering and contributing factors in the control of dental caries.

Until fairly recently it was generally believed that bacteria in the mouth alone caused the teeth to decay. Recent research has attributed this to the presence of bacillus acidolphus in the mouth, fermenting carbohydrates and producing an acid which breaks down the enamel. Other workers upon this theory have failed to substantiate it, as they have found bacillus acidolphus present with no dental caries.

These investigators feel that the condition of the mouth is of minor importance if a diet is taken that is adequate in all nutritive elements, high in mineral and vitamin content. They think that this will create an alkalinity of the body highly resistant to disease. They believe that dental caries is caused by conditions, which, preventing normal metabolism of calcium and phosphorus and proper utilization of Vitamins C and D, causes deterioration of the pulp and the dentin and subsequent destruction of the enamel. They attribute tooth decay to forces working from within the body rather than to local conditions of the mouth.

Others take a view directly opposite to this and say that diet exerts little or no effect upon the teeth except as it influences decay by deposits of food residues remaining in the mouth. They say that tooth decay is always a result of enamel destruction first, due to food fermentation. To this our first school replies that correct diet will make the saliva protective and residual food will not ferment.

Perhaps the majority of scientists working on this problem feel that experimentation on animals has proved that dental caries begin with enamel destruction. A diet too high in sugar increases bacterial action in the mouth. As a rule children who eat too much sugar do not eat well at meals and thus the diet is poorly balanced in calcium and phosphorus and low in Vitamins C and D. The general health of the child is also very important and children with good food habits are more apt to be normal in body development and more highly resistant to disease. They are not so subject to continual minor ailments that check normal healthy appetites and cause children to develop unnatural appetites and freak food habits. During such upsets the mouth becomes a good field for substances that are tooth destroying and these often work with great rapidity before normal health is regained. Sometimes parents indulge children more when they are not so well and later they find it most difficult to reestablish good food habits.

They are a few people who believe that teeth, like many other physical characteristics, are governed by heredity and that the child inherits his bad teeth. They do not stop to realize that perhaps they too have bad food habits that the children are imitating and that these more than heredity cause tooth decay. Heredity may and does affect size and shape of teeth but diet and environment have more effect upon the preservation of teeth.

The old belief that clean teeth do not decay has been discarded in the light of the fact that dental caries has made rapid progress at times under most stringent mouth hygiene when diets poor in essential minerals and vitamins were eaten. In other cases where no mouth hygiene has been used no dental caries have been found. Some people seem to be immune from this ailment.

The depression has been blamed for nearly everything so it cannot escape being blamed for its effect upon the teeth of the present generation. However a well balanced diet, rich in vegetables and fruits and in dairy products, is not necessarily an expensive one nor is it difficult to obtain in most sections of this country. The diet even of people unemployed and on relief could be dietetically adequate, if properly selected. In many cases this has not been done because of poor supervision. Many people possess no budgeting sense and through poor money expenditure children and adults are suffering from malnutrition which is sure to affect the teeth. Thus whether diet act from within or without, tooth preservation is largely dependent on the nutrition of the individual.

 

MAUDE A. PERRY,

General Hospital of Everett,

Everett, Washington.